By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
U.K. stocks edged higher Thursday, with a late-afternoon push coming from GKN PLC after the engineering group sealed a merger, but London blue-chip equities declined for the month and quarter
The pound, meanwhile, was cementing its strongest quarter in nearly three years as investors headed out for the Easter and Passover weekends.
How markets moved
The FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +0.57% ended up 0.2% at 7,056.61, led by the basic materials and consumer-goods sectors. But the utility and financial groups lost ground. On Wednesday, the index finished up by 0.6%.
The blue-chip benchmark fell 2.3% in March, the third straight monthly decline. Also, it sank 8.2% for the first quarter of 2018, the worst performance since the third quarter of 2011, according to FactSet data.
The pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +1.1119% on Thursday changed hands at $1.4021, down from $1.4076 late Wednesday in New York. But sterling has risen about 3.8% against the buck during the first quarter, the biggest rise since the second quarter of 2017.
The midcap FTSE 250 Index /zigman2/quotes/210598417/delayed UK:MCX +0.56% rose 0.5%, but ended the first quarter down by 6.1%. The yield on the 10-year gilt /zigman2/quotes/211347177/realtime BX:TMBMKGB-10Y +7.17% was down 1 basis point at 1.349%, according to Tradeweb.
U.K. financial markets will be closed Friday and on Monday in observance of the holidays.
What drove markets
Mining stocks helped buoy the FTSE 100 as prices for some metals advanced, with copper futures rising nearly 1%. Among top gainers, copper miner Fresnillo PLC /zigman2/quotes/201300065/delayed UK:FRES +3.59% ended up 2.9% and Anglo American PLC /zigman2/quotes/201381512/delayed UK:AAL +4.11% tacked on 2.7%.
But mining stocks this month have taken a hit alongside broader equity markets, buffeted by fears of global trade war and a possibly stepped-up pace of interest rate rises by the U.S. Federal Reserve. U.S. President Donald Trump’s tone on trade has helped drive some investor concerns, after his administration slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and considered taking aim at Chinese imports via similar duties.
The FTSE 100 was also hurt this quarter by a climb in the pound against the dollar, and by a roughly 1.5% advance against the euro /zigman2/quotes/210561278/realtime/sampled GBPEUR +0.1524% . A stronger value of sterling can hurt shares of multinational companies that are heavily weighted on the FTSE 100, as revenue and earnings for those companies can be reduced by pound strength.